North & Hillard; Ex. 192, Q3: "While provisions held out they resisted all attacks.", is to be translated into Latin.

The answer: "dum (quamdiu) frumentum suppetebat, omnibus oppugnationibus resistebant."

I translated the verbs in the perfect tense (suppetivit; restiterunt); if the attacks constitute a series of completed actions, in the past, (for which provisions were available) then is the perfect valid, even though, at first glance, the natural instinct is to select the imperfect?

Surprised that nobody has commented. If I'm wrong please just say--I can take it.


From the point of view of the dominant clause, omnibus oppugnationibus resistebant, the subordinate clause describes continuous circumstances instead of one-off events. Such continuous continuous circumstances are indicated with the imperfect tense. Whether the events are completed now at the time of narration is less relevant for a subordinate clause.

It is also irrelevant whether the circumstance came to an end when the main event began. The point is that the imperfect sets the stage where something else happens. For example, in "I was sitting when the fire alarm went off" the sitting would be indicated with an imperfect tense, despite the sitting surely coming to an abrupt stop upon the alarm.

Whether the resisting should be perfect or imperfect depends on point of view or details. If you would consider it a single battle, then perhaps the perfect tense is suitable. But if it was extended siege warfare, then the continued nature of the imperfect is better. Both positions are defensible, but I find the imperfect more natural here: there was a long-lasting achievement (resisting attacks) while a long-lasting circumstance (enough supplies) was valid. Imperfect is the typical choice when you want to give more focus on repetition than completion.


This Q. was not answered; but, now I know! It's to do with "dum + historic present".

When "dum" is followed by a historic present where it refers to a period of time, during the course of which, something else happens:

e.g. while we were walking, we found a horse = dum ambulamus, equum invenimus.

But if "dum" refers to a period of time which is "coterminous with the thing happening", then an imperfect is used:

e.g. while we were walking, we were singing = dum ambulabamus, cantabamus.

In this example, all the time we were walking we were singing, thus the two activities were coterminous. In Q3, above, while provisions were holding out, they were resisting: coterminous circumstances, requiring the imperfect.

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